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Column

Styf: Numbers don’t show everything, but they do tell us what you care about

Jon Styf
Jon Styf

I love numbers. Always have.

That’s why, when I set off for college, I was an accounting major.

But micro and macroeconomics courses weren’t my cup of tea, so I ended up here, doing what I love.

Numbers, however, continue to be a daily part of my work.

As news and newspapers have evolved into 24/7 multimedia organizations, a lot has changed, like our focus on print. It’s no longer everything; it hasn’t been for a while.

Now, we have a lot more data on what our readers want. And, before you put on a tinfoil hat, know that this is all anonymous data about reading patterns of the entire group, not something interrupting your privacy.

What it tells us is what you are reading, how long you’re reading it, whether it’s leading you to other stories from us or leading you to exit our site, and how you got to our story in the first place.

The reason that knowledge is important is that it helps us figure out our coverage priorities.

During election season, for example, you might think and want people to believe you want to be fully informed on all the local races. Our numbers, however, show us that you’re way more likely to be looking at our photos, taken by photo editor Eric Ginnard, behind the fences at the closed Joliet Correctional Center (i.e. Collins Street prison).

In fact, it’s the most-viewed item since we’ve been counting on any Shaw Media website. Those photos, posted and published months ago, were the most looked at item on our website the past week. You really, really want to see those.

You also like reading about crime, controversy and especially breaking news, like our coverage of Sema’j Crosby and items like the fire at that same prison.

That’s why, when we’re looking at serving our subscribers both online and in print, we try to focus our reporting on the area’s of highest impact, the ones you care about.

Like May 26, when DCFS released its 22-page report near the close of business on the Friday before a holiday weekend and a man was also convicted of murdering Plainfield HIgh sports legend Nate Fox.

We know you care about those things and we worked overtime to give you complete coverage of both.

You also have read our local editorials on the Sema’j Crosby case, which is part of the reason we weighed in again in Sunday’s edition, after news of DCFS’ leader, George Sheldon, resigning and that report over the past 10 days.

We do all of this knowing that there is some important news we will cover regardless of the web traffic, and always keeping a keen eye on ensuring our reporting has solidly met our journalistic standards.

Which is why, when so many questioned Meals on Wheels director Vincent Clark’s words last week, we went back and asked more about the details of the grants they use and funding.

Over the past few months, we have improved the user experience and our reporting resources to bring you more for your subscription each day. Our coverage is here to serve you, our subscribers, and we hope to continue to improve.

Our first two summer interns, Jessica Spangler and Joe Grabowski, joined us this week. We’re really happy to have them.

You also might have seen the name of new digital reporter Lindsay Gloor, who is working with all of our Shaw Media daily papers, in the paper this week too.

We’ll have one more intern joining us next week, along with a new news editor, who I will announce in this space next week before a June 12 start.

All of this is why I couldn’t be happier to be part of Shaw Media. Every day, it seems that I read about media organizations’ shrinking newsrooms.

Ours certainly isn’t as large as I have heard it was 10 to 15 years ago, which is true pretty much anywhere as the economics of journalism has changed, but our company continues to be highly committed to putting resources toward giving you the most high impact local news possible on a daily basis.

Keep reading, and subscribing, and we will continue to hold up our end of that bargain.

• The Herald-News Editor Jon Styf can be reached at jstyf@shawmedia.com, on Twitter @JonStyf or at 815-280-4119. Styf also is editor of he Morris Herald-News and Herald Life, and is an editor with Pro Football Weekly.

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